As with many trends, contemporary haircuts are variants of previous ones, embracing the inescapable cyclical nature of fashion and looking back in time. Let’s try exploring probably the most fashion-obsessed culture in the world, Japan.
The Punch Perm, a famous hairstyle in Japan, was most prevalent among the Yakuza, chinpira (low-level criminals), bszoku (motorcycle gang members), truck drivers, construction workers, and enka singers from 1970 to the mid-1990s.
In contrast to today’s straightened hairstyles, a punch perm is a hairstyle densely packed tightly to curls permed to help them maintain their form. The style is identical to curly hair, which was popular in the US simultaneously, but the curls on Perm blow considerably stronger.
A little History
Shigemi Naganuma, a Japanese barber in Kokurakita-Ku, Kitakysh, created the hairstyle in the 1960s. He modelled the look after black hair when Hair was round and could not be held securely during curling.
Naganuma modified cast iron by filing it to a hex form, similar to a pencil, to provide a tight grip. He called the style “the leader of the press” at first, but it became known as the “punch-Perm.” According to one account, the name is derived from its perceptive and strong look.
Due to a decline in demand and an increase in Japanese men having their hair trimmed at salons rather than barbershops, few barbers are skilled in performing the punch perm nowadays.
The bad guy “Punch Perm.”
The Punch Perm was started by the small mafia groups of Japan, the yakuza, chinpira, bōsōzoku, truck drivers, construction workers, and enka singers. The style became famous in Japan, worn by prominent Enka singers and fashionable young people.
Takashi Kata, an Osaka-based former national punch perm champion, reflects the style’s huge popularity in the 1960s and 1970s on the men’s style blog Ape to Gentleman.
He said,” Punch perms used to be so popular guys would line up for hours to get one done. At the peak of their popularity, I was making up to 2.4 million yen a month just doing punch perms.”
Over time, the style grew more closely linked with tough people like the yakuza, construction labourers, and bosozoku motorcycle gangs.
Being most popular among the criminal and gangsters, the trend was not so socially approving.
As a result, punch perms became less socially acceptable, as they had effectively developed into a marker of a troublemaker. However, the stereotype is still prevalent in Japanese pop culture today, and you’ve probably seen some characters wearing it in TV series, games, and anime.
Punch Perm and the pop culture
There are popular Japanese characters known for the Punch perm, like
- In the popular anime and manga series Shinchan’s character Bunta Takakura sports a punch perm.
- Remember the “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” guy from a few years ago?
In the music video for the song, Piko-Taro, the flamboyant musician character invented by comedian Kosaka Daimaou, has a punch perm.
- A Japanese news website in English Sora 24 compares the punch perm to both the mullet and a Kid n’ Playstyle hi-top fade. However, it’s unclear whether this aesthetic has a strong Western counterpart. However, finding a stylist who can carry off this style is difficult even in Tokyo.
- Kasuga Ichiban from Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Ryu ga Gotoku Online is shown in the late 1990s with a punch perm. When he was released from jail at the beginning of the game, a hairdresser attempts and fails to recreate his prior haircut, accidentally giving him the wild mane he wears for the rest of the game.
A variation to the Punch Perm
Bōsōzoku modified the punch perm style slightly into another haircut called Pippa. The “Pippa” is a variant of the punch perm used predominantly by a bazooka.
To achieve this look, both sides of the forehead are shaved to produce a cross between a widow’s peak, an afro, and an excessively sculpted early 1960s pompadour.
The “iron perm” is another choice. A punch perm is made using rollers and chemicals, whereas an iron perm is made using a hot curling iron. This hairstyle frequently includes singeing the hair.
Iron perms make it easy to part your hair. It defines a section of your hair and adds volume from the roots. It makes styling straight hair much simpler. This perm is more costly than a regular perm, but it lasts longer. Blow-dry your hair, and you’re ready to go.
The comeback effect of Punch perm
The Punch perm tells a lot about the person wearing it, presumably why it never gained public popularity and is now limited to a novelty cut similar to a mullet or a Kid ‘n Play quality hi-top fade.
Kazuhito Kosaka, the famous PPAP music video guy, better known by his stage names Daimaou Kosaka and Pikotaro, pushed the hairstyle in japan back into the spotlight, but it failed to take off.
An experience with the Punch Perm
Although there is no “how-to” about the Punch Perm, if you ever wish to try out the classic hairstyle, this article might help you.
There is an account of Mr Sato by soranews24 on his experience with the Punch perm hairstyle.
The barber starts by cropping off his hair to shorten the fronts and then trimming off the sides.
After the haircut was finished, the barber sprayed a layer of chemicals on the remaining hair and wrapped it in plastic, allowing the perm to set.
The barber pulled out a curling iron and started rolling his shaved hair row by row.
The process went on until he achieved short row by row curled up tight perms.
Normal hair requires around 140 degrees to punch perm, but Mr Sato’s required 169 degrees to make the curls decently tight.
The tightness of the curls depends mostly on the volume of hair, and as thick the density on the head, the curls seem that prominent.
Punch Perm off the trends
The punch perm, formerly considered a sign of masculinity by the Japanese, is now on the verge of extinction. Most ascribe to its intrinsic link with the underworld, specifically the Yakuza.
“Even though many ordinary men got punch perms at the height of their popularity, so did a lot of yakuza,” said Yuzo Matsui, the president of the Osaka Barbers’ Union. Ironically, after the Yakuza became involved, the haircut lost favour with the general public.”
This hairdo may have had its day in the Far East, but don’t be shocked if you see a punch perm stroll by. According to the recent rise of Japanese fashion labels, while the original punch perm may be a bit severe, a modern variant may find its way into circulation.
Getting the Punch Perm
Bszoku somewhat changed the punch perm into another hairstyle known as Pippa. The hair is shaved very close to the head on both sides in this hairstyle. The hair is then pulled forward in the centre of the brow.
Traditional punch perms are made with tiny perm rollers and chemicals penetrating the hair shaft to generate a semi-permanent curl. In a lengthy procedure, the hair is sectioned and wrapped up with small rollers. After that, chemicals are applied to the hair, and the individual sits under a hairdryer for a time.
The time required for the punch perm is determined by the length of one’s hair and the type of permanent wave used. The hair is washed once the curlers have been removed. The hair is now permanently curled. However, part of the curl’s tightness will ease and soften after a few washes.
So, Try or Not to Try?
The Punch Perm, the classic mafia hairstyle, might seem too oldish and uncool to try out. But with little variations to the punch, a perm could be a good summer hairdo for thick curly hair.
The Punch perm reveals a lot about the person wearing it, which is probably why it never became popular and is currently restricted to a novelty cut.
The hairstyle seems like the antithesis of most modern hairstyles. As opposed to the conventional straightened hairstyles of today, the punch perm hairstyle of tightly packed curls permed to keep their shape.
A Punch Perm hairstyle with its popularity among the Yakuza, chinpira, bōsōzoku, and enka singers was previously discouraged by society’s mindset. Still, in today’s time of looking past social acceptance norms and experimenting with oldie hairdos bringing back, the Punch Permm could be considered.
All Said, sure, Punch Perm requires courage to do as it is a risk-stated hairstyle. Trying it out for the sake of experimenting could be a choice.